Intro: How to Watch Local Channels Without an Antenna
Thinking about “cutting the cord” but still want access to your local channels? Don’t fret! There are still a number of ways to watch local TV. This article will summarize how to watch local channels without an antenna in 2022.
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How to Watch ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC Without an Antenna
Let’s start with the Big Four broadcasters. You might think that you could just stream these channels online for free. But it’s a little more complicated than that.
In fact, the big media companies have sued organizations that have tried to put live-feeds of their channels online. This is what happened to a free service called Locast, which was shut down in September 2021.
For now, you’ll need to either take a slightly different approach in how you watch TV or pay money for a streaming service that carries the local channels.
Here are the best options for now.
Method #1: Go “A La Carte” for Free
The cheapest option is what we’ll call the “a la carte” method. You still won’t be able to stream the entire live-feed of the main broadcast networks. For this method, you'll need to find the same content you'd watch on broadcast TV but in separate places where its available to stream for free on-demand.
Now when it comes to local news specifically, this is widely available online for free including the live news broadcasts. We’ve written a separate article about watching local news without cable which you can read here.
As for TV shows, all of the Big Four broadcasters have apps where you can watch programming on-demand for free (with ads). Without signing in with a cable provider, though, this will be limited to certain episodes. Usually it’s the past few most recent ones.
You also can’t watch the live channels through these apps unless you sign in with a paid TV provider- which is a bummer!
Plus there's some programming that's difficult to access for free online. That includes sports and live events like awards shows.
Method #2: Get CBS with Paramount+
Paramount+ is a very good streaming service that has shows like Star Trek: Brave New Worlds, Halo, and 1883. They offer two plans- the “Essentials” plan for $4.99 a month and the “Premium” plan for $9.99 a month.
With the Premium plan, you’ll get access to a live feed of your local CBS station. This will allow you to watch all of the shows on CBS as well as your local news and sporting events like NFL games.
Depending on how much you watch CBS versus the other three broadcast networks, a Paramount+ Premium plan could be a good option. For a full breakdown of Paramount+, check out our review here.
Method #3: Sign Up for a Live TV Streaming Service
Live TV streaming services offer live streams of the same channels you’d get over broadcast or cable. Since you’re streaming over the internet, however, there’s no need for equipment. There’s also no annual contract and the services can be cancelled at any time.
This option might not be the cheapest, but it will give you the best access to your local channels without either a cable subscription or antenna. Plus you’ll have the option to record shows using a cloud DVR.
Here are the streaming services that offer access to the main broadcast networks:
- YouTube TV: This is, by some measures, the most popular live TV streaming service in the United States. With a YouTube TV subscription, you’ll get access to all four of the major broadcasters in addition to your local PBS station. A subscription costs $64.99 a month, after any free trials or sign-up discounts.
- For more on YouTube TV, including the full channel lineup, check out our review here.
- Hulu + Live TV: With this live TV streaming service, you’ll also get access to all four major broadcasters. A nice feature of their subscription is that it includes a regular Hulu subscription, Disney+, and ESPN+ at no extra cost. A Hulu + Live TV account costs $69.99 per month.
- For more on Hulu + Live TV, including the full channel lineup, check out our review here.
- fuboTV: A focal point of this streaming service is access to live sports. It also offers all of the main four local channels. A fuboTV subscription normally costs $69.99 per month. As a special deal for followers of Shall I Stream It, however, you can get 15% off your first month after a seven day free trialby clicking the button below!
- For more on fuboTV, check out our review here.
- DirecTV Stream: You might be familiar with DirecTV as a satellite provider. They now offer a live TV streaming service as well that includes all four of the major broadcast networks. With certain plans you’ll also get access to regional sports networks, too, making this streaming service the best choice for RSNs like Bally Sports. Their packages start at $69.99 a month.
- Vidgo: If you haven’t heard of this streaming service before, you’re not alone. It’s less popular than its competitors. With a Vidgo subscription, though, you’ll get access to ABC and FOX, but not NBC or CBS. Their plans start at $79.95 per month or $59.95 if you prepay for three months.
- Sling TV: This popular service offers various “cable” networks but the selection is pretty slim when it comes to local channels. FOX and NBC networks are available, but only in certain markets. Sling plans start at $35 a month.
As for the remaining live TV streaming services, Philo and Frndly TV, neither offer local channels.
To recap, here's a chart:
|Sling TV||No||No||In some markets||In some markets|
|Hulu + Live TV||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Method #4: Stream TV for Free with Stanford University
This option is the least conventional method, but it is completely free. You can watch the local stations from the San Francisco Bay area including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, the CW, and PBS through a website called Puffer as part of a research project from Stanford University.
There are a couple caveats to this. First is that you must watch it in a web browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Opera. It does not work with Safari or on iPhones and iPads. There’s also no standalone app, which makes watching it on a TV somewhat difficult.
Second is that only 500 people can watch Puffer at a time. When there are major events going on like the Super Bowl or the Oscars it’s very difficult to secure a spot.
The research that’s being conducted involves “using machine learning to improve video-streaming algorithms,” according to their FAQ. To conduct this research, they need their software to stream video from a variety of internet connections. To sign up for the study, click on the button below.
How to Watch PBS Without an Antenna
While the main broadcasters remain somewhat elusive when it comes to online streaming, the public broadcaster PBS is the exception. Local PBS stations are widely available to stream for free through the PBS app.
To access your local PBS station, go onto their website or download their app and verify your zip code to select the appropriate station. Voila! Now you can watch PBS for free.
When it comes to on-demand content, some of it will be available for free, but to get full access to everything you’ll need to become a PBS Passport member. Learn more about PBS passport here.
How to Watch Cozi TV, BUZZR, GetTV and More Without an Antenna
You can some of the secondary local TV stations such as BUZZR, MyNetworkTV, NewsNet, TCN, Circle, getTV, and Cozi TV with a free streaming app called LocalBTV.
LocalBTV is available in 23 markets in the United States at the time of publication. With LocalBTV you can record up to 300 hours of programming with a free cloud DVR and view up to two weeks of program info in the channel guide.
It’s available on Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV in addition to the LocalBTV website. According to their FAQ page, they plan to offer major networks like ABC and NBC in the future.
Final Thoughts- How to Watch Local Channels Without an Antenna
TV is going through some growing pains as consumers switch from cable services to streaming. It remains a bit frustrating that local channels aren’t quite as accessible as one might hope, but at least there are some options out there.
Don’t forget- there’s also plenty of free streaming apps, too. Some of these even include their own live channels. Check out some of the best in our article here.
How do you watch local channels without an antenna? Are there any methods we missed? Let us know in the comment section below!